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Guest Post: The mindset of painting

Hallo!  D Power from I’m Alone with a Dream here.  In this guest post, I’d like to ramble on a bit about a favored hobby horse; the mindset behind PAINTING.

Guest Author D Powers on the Mindset of Painting

I’ve known of people starting out collecting and painting wargaming miniatures with high hopes and great excitement. Later they become frustrated with what, in truth, is their own style of painting that’s trying to develop– while they repress it with images of what they think is “correct.” Something like what the ‘Eavy Metal studio has produced.

While you get neither points nor bad marks for imitating someone’s work you admire, you should not be discouraged from being yourself.

Nobody is Norman Rockwell

A veteran illustrator friend of mine told me of a time when Norman Rockwell was so popular that everyone tried to imitate him, putting others down for not copying the “proper” style.  While this peer pressure isn’t quite so present in the wargaming community, some people tend to think it is, and that’s sad really.

Norman Rockwell's Art Critic

Art Critic, Norman Rockwell 1955. Fair Use

Time passed, and because nobody was Norman Rockwell, nobody could copy him perfectly– but having spent their days practicing the way another person painted, they had no place in their minds for any style of their own, which I think is even sadder.

The truth is, there isn’t any perfect artist, and there is no “wrong” way to paint.  Whatever you choose to paint– it doesn’t even have to be little grey men– this is your hobby and you, the consumer, should be allowed do as you wish.  I, for one, play 40K very little, but I love the lore, and I kitbash and paint as a form of expression, like an ordinary artist would through his canvas.

Many people have noted a likeness in my work to that of the legendary John Blanche– which I won’t deny– I love his work to bits and have been greatly inspired by him; actually, it was his work that drew me into the worlds of Warhammer.

Sister of Battle by John Blanche

Sister of Battle by John Blanche – Used without permission

A Bit of Backstory

Let me now expound on a bit of my backstory in the hobby.

The first time I was introduced to the Blanchitsu style (I believe) was in Codex: Witch Hunters.

I was a small, easily-influenced boy at the time and after being highly disturbed by the cover, I saw John’s Sister of Battle painting and was completely blown away.  Up until now I had only seen– and was now a little unimpressed by– the clean, crisp lines of the studio miniatures on the backs of the boxes and such a gritty, lore-rich image grabbed me immediately.

I also fell in love with the sister superior, all of twelve years old I was, but it was the Imperial rabble in the background that amazed me so. Hooded cultists and white-haired mendicants. It had such a powerful, dark, medieval air to it– and the fact that they seemed to be fighting on a GRAVE WORLD.

I decided then and there to become the next John Blanche, or at least the New Zealand equivalent, and when I finally bought my first space marines four years later, I set about to just that– but that’s when I realized I didn’t now a thing about painting.

I looked up tutorials and bought model painting guides and was completely overwhelmed by what was the “proper” way.  Wet palette?  14 different brush sizes?  Thinning agents?  Whatever was an airbrush?

Everyone had their “correct” way and no matter what I tried,  I was never comfortable, never happy, and my sprig of hope quickly seeded into despair.  Unaware that most of the tutorials were written by veterans of the hobby I expected to achieve what they did and these “correct” images only made me feel worse about my attempts.

Correcting the Mindset of Painting

You need to stand back and look at the bigger picture.

Realize you HAVEN’T been painting for 10+ years. Realize you don’t NEED to copy what they’ve done. And while painting guides are useful for technique– believe me, I’m not saying they’re at all wrong, but nothing can teach you your own style except yourself, and that’s the most important thing to remember.

Also, you need to be aware of the fact that– provided you practice at it– your style WILL improve and change as time passes.  Observe the next two images, pretty much how my style has developed over five years, starting from the left:

The first three years of D Power's Space Marines

The first three years

Create Your Style

When I began creating the Sagodur Fjorlag Chapter, I chose yellow and black for their colours. One because the first ever image of an Astartes I saw was an Imperial Fist, so yellow was always the “proper” colour in my mind– and here I go slipping into this rut I preach against!– and second, John always used a lot of yellow in his artwork, and I felt Averland Sunset evoked his saintly name well.

First and foremost I didn’t know how to achieve anything the guides mentioned.  I mixed a base with a layer because I was told mixing was “the done thing.” Ouch.

Time passed, and I began to discard their advice– and with my own experimentation came exciting discoveries. Such as the fact that Citadel paints are water-based!  More, thinner coats and washes made me feel like a pro.  I continued to practice, getting more and more carried away with different coloured washes and weathering, and I realized that I had strayed from the style I thought was “right.”

The next two years

The next two years

The chap on the far left was where I decided to start over in my quest to become the next Blanche, but despite my practicing, I still couldn’t match John’s level of grittiness and colour.  I started to despair again– why was I not “improving”?  What was I doing wrong?

Then I looked back and saw I had done nothing “wrong.”  I had been inspired to paint a certain way, and I took that seed of inspiration and grown it into my own rust-caked flower of artistic ability.  I could never be John Blanche.

But I could be the Lonely Kitbasher.


What you discover can be applied to so much more.

My sentimental ramblings have gone on too long!

To summarize then– be inspired, find an artist, or artists you like, and practice, practice practice.  You don’t NEED to copy them; the only “wrong” thing to do is suppress your own style’s development.

If you let it show through what you paint then the result will be exciting, satisfying– maybe even surprising– and all those other nice words that go with being truly happy in your hobby.

Remember that.

Bye bye for now.


If you haven’t seen D’s work, make sure you check out his blog Alone with a Dream. It is a fantastic collection on inspired conversions and, as he mentions here, he own take at the Blanchistu style. – Joe